My home library, the Black Earth Library reminds me a bit of “The Little Engine that Could”
Although small in size, (the smallest library in Dane County, Wisconsin) my library is a beacon for literacy in our small town to those of all ages. During the months of closure due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I would drive by the darkened building, always thinking about the books I wanted to read or had ordered on line but could not access. I was reminded of those times, places and people that did not have the opportunity or freedom of information that allows us access to this magnificent resource.
In a community that has seen the disappearance of its grocery store, its pharmacy, its medical clinic, its senior center and a major restaurant, the library stands alone as a place where our community can gather, attend information and learning sessions for all ages and access books, movies and data in formats useful to all.
When the lights came on again recently, I felt as if the beacon once more shone in Black Earth.
I, for one, am better for it!
Virgil Westphal was referred to the library by the Village of McFarland Senior Outreach staff after his wife died and he realized without her help he didn’t know how to use his home computer. Katharine Clark, Adult Services Librarian, set up multiple hour appointments to introduce him to using email and getting online.
Virgil soon become a regular at the library and finally got a library card. The first book he checked out was “Computers for Dummies.” Virgil has now become a regular and has been convinced by his family to use a smartphone, which will mean more appointments to get him up to speed on more new technology. Virgil’s life has definitely been transformed by the E.D.Locke Public Library.
My hometown library was a house on our tree-lined Main Street. Dad was in charge of our weekly visits which were lively and much anticipated. My six siblings and I would scatter to our favorite areas of the library, always aware that strict and stern librarian, Miss Stafford, was keeping an eye on us.
Besides the creaky floors, my brightest library memory is discovering a series of children's books about inventors. I loved Elias Howe's name and his amazing sewing machine! Reading that book opened up a world I hadn't given much thought to before, so I read the whole series, and have never stopped seeking to understand, to know more, thanks to all of my public libraries.
I set things up in such a bad way for myself early on in high school. Hating the system, people in it, the feeling that teachers didn’t care to actually teach me. Eventually I gave up on academics. I switched to Shabazz City High and things got better but what remained of my earlier high school years came back to haunt me right as graduation was coming. I was behind in credits and struggling to figure out what to do.
Work or Volunteering was suggested. When I couldn’t find a job I only had one option left. I had to muster up a lot of courage just to go to the help desk where Joe Kester was sitting that day. He was quick to help me with the application process and directed me to Liz Amundson. I was nervous but even early on it felt like I was cared for and that she was genuinely rooting for my success. Liz took extra time to help me understand what I needed to do and work out a plan for me.
Things have been pretty smooth sailing since. I never felt uncomfortable in the space she and the people working here made for me. It’s felt pretty surreal. I’m somewhere I almost thought I was never gonna be. In these 7 weeks I have had a great time working with children here, making masks and face painting. I have made book displays and helped the people coming in to find what they need, and I have cleaned more DVD’s than I ever thought I would. Now after 90 hours, I can say I am a high school graduate and I can not stress enough how grateful I am.
I love this place. Just love it. It is my home away from home. I love the warmth of the people, and some people are just born with this warmth. Other places do not feel like this. I am a people person, and like to talk to people and I need to mingle. I think that sometimes, perhaps living in a place like this where things can get dreary, if you are people person you have to get out and be around other people. Librarians are a special bunch. Just really, very special. They are like teachers. They, well I assume, are very underpaid like teachers. What job could be more important?!
I am from Argentina, and I came to California a long time ago, two wives ago. I never went to school for English, I taught myself. I read and read, but my writing is not so good. Sometimes I think of a word and it doesn’t always translate to English, so I think, I will ask the Librarians about this word. They will know. And you do! You always do. Everyone here is just wonderful. Some are more shy than others. We all need to keep learning. I believe we all have something to learn from everyone – anyone can help be a guide in your life.
Fine-free teacher cards are huge. With the comprehensive literacy model, every lesson in the school is based around books – whether it’s science, social studies, reading, writing. Teachers are always looking for a great “mentor text” that can catapult their lesson. You have to have a great book. With our school library being the size that it is, I might have one or two copies of a text, but with four teachers doing the same unit at the same time, we might need eight. Beyond that, when the students have their free choice read, they want a wide variety of books on the topic that they’re learning. They’re making connections to what they’re learning about, and they think it’s cool. Especially the little ones, they’re just like, “Oh my god! Remember we just talked about this? Here it is!” And the teacher’s heart swells…”You get it!” Having the whole South Central Library System to pull from has been very powerful. Without it, I don’t know how our teachers would have managed.
Evelyn attended the library’s Minecraft Club. She likes the library because she can learn new things and it is easy to find new fantasy books and series. The library is full of interesting things and activities, including play areas for her baby sister.